This year’s wildly unpredictable presidential campaign and a truncated legislative calendar has Congress less active and more cautious than usual, AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels told AHA members today at the 2016 Annual Membership Meeting. Congressional leaders are looking ahead to 2017 and “see an opportunity to frame an agenda” that could include action on entitlement reform and the Affordable Care Act, he said. Still, he says there is a good chance for passing bipartisan legislation this year on funding to combat the Zika virus, addressing opioid abuse, improving behavioral health services and spurring medical innovation. Nickels discussed hospital advocacy issues at a session with Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington bureau chief and director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University. When hospital leaders meet later this week with congressional staff on Capitol Hill, Nickels urged them to advocate for flexible regulations for off-campus hospital outpatient departments; the SMARTER Act, which would standardize hospital merger reviews between the federal antitrust agencies; and AHA-backed bills to eliminate unnecessary barriers to care, among other key issues.